Still A Lot To Play For
by Mike Mitchell
Even with the Thanksgiving holiday upon us there are still a lot of unanswered questions in college football. The vast majority of division and conference titles are yet to be decided and 17 teams have a chance to become bowl eligible in the eleventh hour.
Here are the previews of this week's games (state rivalries in red).
Texas and USC are the only remaining unbeaten teams. USC is idle this week.
Texas at Texas A&M (Friday) - The good news in College Station is that the Aggies, projected by the computer to go 7-4, have one last chance to become bowl eligible. The bad news is that they have to beat Texas on Friday to get 'er done. The Aggies haven't beaten anyone with a winning record, were steamrolled by Texas Tech 56-17 and lost at home to Iowa State 42-14. Texas leads the third most-played series in college football 72-34-5 .
Utah State at New Mexico State (0-11) - The computer gives a 1-point edge to NMSU which has lost 12 in-a-row. Both teams are nicknamed "Aggies". It hasn't been a good year to be an "Aggie" as the three teams in 1-A football which share that nickname - NMSU, Utah State and Texas A&M - are a combined 7-26. .
Temple (0-11) - Temple ended the season on a 12-game losing streak. The Owls were outscored 498-107.
OTHER Conference Games (not reviewed above)
ACC: North Carolina at Virginia Tech - The Hokies will earn a shot at their second straight ACC championship with a win over the Tar Heels at home. Virginia Tech escaped last year's meeting with a 27-24 victory when North Carolina missed a 54-yard field goal with a minute left. UNC will be giving it all its got as the Tar Heels need a win to become bowl eligible.
Maryland at N.C. State - The winner qualifies for a postseason bowl bid. The loser stays home.
Virginia at Miami (Fla.) - A Miami win, coupled with a Virginia Tech loss at home to North Carolina, puts the 'Canes back into the ACC title game against Florida State. The teams have only met twice before (1996 and 2004) with Miami winning both games including 31-21 last year in Charlottesville.
Pittsburgh at West Virginia - The 98th edition of "the Backyard Brawl" takes place in Morgantown. A win by the Mountaineers guarantees them at least a tie for the Big East title. If South Florida beats Connecticut this weekend AND West Virginia beats Pitt, the conference's BCS bowl bid will go to the winner of next week's game in Tampa between the Mountaineers and the Bulls. A WVU win coupled with a USF loss this weekend secures the title and the BCS bid for the Mountaineers. Louisville and Pittsburgh are net yet mathematically eliminated from the chase.
South Florida at Connecticut - Connecticut needs to win its last two games to become bowl eligible. South Florida needs a victory to stay on track for a conference title showdown at home against West Virginia next week.
Syracuse at Louisville - If West Virginia and South Florida each lose their last two conference games, Louisville can still squeeze in to the Big East's BCS picture. The Cardinals have won 11 straight home games while Syracuse arrives on an 8-game losing streak.
Cincinnati at Rutgers - Rutgers has a chance to improve its stock with bowl committees by improving to 7-4 with a win over the Bearcats. Cincy is already ineligible for the postseason.
Everyone is finished except for Wisconsin which plays at Hawaii on Friday (See "Other Interesting Non-Conference Games").
Nebraska at Colorado - The simplest thing that could happen to determine the north division champion is for Colorado to beat Nebraska and the Buffaloes are heavy favorites. Should they lose, Iowa State wins the division with a victory over Kansas.
Iowa State at Kansas - Iowa State wins the division if the Cyclones beat Kansas AND Colorado loses at home to Nebraska. Kansas needs to win to become bowl eligible.
Oklahoma State at Oklahoma - A win at Oklahoma, in the 100th edition of the Bedlam rivalry, would make the Cowboys season as they are already ineligible for a bowl bid thanks to last week's loss at Baylor. The Sooners need to win to step up a notch in bowl stature. Oklahoma leads the series overwhelmingly 76-16-7 but the last 10 games have been split 5-apiece.
Central Florida awaits either UTEP or Tulsa for the conference championship. The game will take place at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando because the Golden Knights have the best record in conference games.
UTEP at SMU - UTEP could have clinched the west division title with a win last week over UAB. Now it comes down to a must-win situation against the Mustangs and the computer, surprisingly, picks SMU by 1. If UTEP loses, the west division title goes to Tulsa. This game can hardly be called a true in-state rivalry, regardless of their El Paso and Dallas campus locations, as they have only faced-off 20 times in history. SMU leads the series 12-8. This will be the 9th meeting in the past 10 seasons and the schools have split the last 8. UTEP has won the last two. The teams did not meet from 1987-1995 or from 1934-1981.
Rice at Houston - Houston wants to win back the Bayou Bucket that went to Rice after last year's 10-7 win by the Owls. The series has been renewed annually since 1971, except for 1996-1998. Houston leads the series 22-9 but Rice has won 5 of the last 7.
UAB at East Carolina -The Blazers kept their bowl hopes alive with a 35-23 win at UTEP. They must beat the Pirates in Greenville this week to become bowl eligible.
Tulane at Southern Miss - The Golden Eagles were looking like a shoe-in for the east division title after running their conference record to 4-1 with a win on November 8th over Marshall. In addition, they had clobbered UCF 52-31 in mid-October. But since then, Southern Miss has lost two straight by a total of 5 points and must now beat Tulane just to become to bowl eligible. This game was originally scheduled as the season-opener for both teams. Hurricane Katrina made it their season finale.
Marshall at Memphis
Four games will be played on the first four days of the week that will determine the MAC title game participants. Two of those games are head-to-head matchups among division leaders. The other two games could be significant factors in the equation.
Miami, Ohio at Ohio (Monday) - The 82nd meeting finds Ohio out of the running for a bowl bid but the Bobcats can play spoiler to Miami. The RedHawks are coming off of 42-14 home loss to Bowling Green on a night when they could have clinched the east division title. Now they need help. The east division title belongs to Bowling Green so long as the Falcons beat Toledo at home this week.
Toledo at Bowling Green (Tuesday) - Toledo lost last week for just the second time in its last 36 home games, snapping a 17-game home winning streak. The Rockets' loss to Northern Illinois was their first-ever since 1990 and the first in Toledo since 1972. Toledo also lost the inside track to the west division title. Now, a Northern Illinois home win this week over Western Michigan sends the Huskies to the MAC title game. Bowling Green leads the series 36-29-4 and the home team has won every meeting since 1998.
Western Michigan at Northern Illinois (Wednesday) - The Huskies got a big monkey off their back last week with a win at Toledo for the first time since 1972 and their first-ever win over the Rockets since 1990. Now, they only have to survive Western Michigan at home to claim their first west division title and get a shot at winning their first MAC championship since 1983.
Kent State at Akron (Thursday) - A win makes Akron bowl eligible at 6-5 and, depending on how other games play out, could put them in position to claim the east division title. Last year, they were the only eligible team that was denied a bowl invitation.
Every team except San Diego State has completed its regular season schedule. The Aztecs are idle this week before traveling to Hawaii for their season finale on December 3rd.
Arizona at Arizona State - Registered with the NCAA as the oldest college rivalry trophy in the nation, the Territorial Cup was first awarded to Tempe Normal School (now Arizona State) in 1899 after an 11-2 win. The teams have split their last fourteen meetings.
Arkansas at LSU - An LSU victory gives them the west division title and a date with Georgia in the SEC title game on December 3rd. A loss gives the west title to Auburn.
Mississippi at Mississippi State - These teams enter the annual Egg Bowl with a combined record of 5-15. The Rebels have won the last three.
Georgia at Georgia Tech - Georgia Tech boosted their bowl stock with a win at Miami this past weekend. They can kick it up another notch with a home win over Georgia. The Bulldogs routed Kentucky last week after consecutive losses to Florida and Auburn ended their run at a national title. Georgia has won four straight in the series after Georgia Tech took three in-a-row. The Bulldogs have won 11 of the last 14.
Tennessee at Kentucky - Last week, Tennessee lost to Vanderbilt for the first time since 1982 and were eliminated from the bowl season for the first time since 1988. The Volunteers have won 20 straight over Kentucky since the Wildcats last win in the series in 1984.
Louisiana-Monroe wins the conference title outright with a win at home over Louisiana-Lafayette. If the Ragin' Cajuns win and North Texas beats Arkansas State, the Cajuns will represent the league at the New Orleans Bowl. If Louisiana-Lafayette wins and Arkansas State wins, ASU gets the New Orleans Bowl invitation. The New Orleans Bowl has been moved to Cajun Field on the Louisiana-Lafayette campus this year as a result of the damage inflicted on the Louisiana Superdome by Hurricane Katrina.
Louisiana-Lafayette at Louisiana-Monroe
FAU at FIU
Arkansas State at North Texas
Middle Tennessee at Troy - Troy has suspended seven players from this game including QB Julian Foster. MTSU head coach Andy McCollum was officially fired Monday but will coach the Blue Raiders in their final two games. Middle Tennessee concludes the season at FIU on December 3rd. .
Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada are all alive in the conference championship race but the upper hand belongs to the Bulldogs. Fresno State is the only team with a clean conference slate and a win over Nevada this week gives them the league title. Nevada could win the title only if it beats Fresno State while
Boise State loses at Louisiana Tech.
Boise State at Louisiana Tech
Fresno State at Nevada
Idaho at San Jose State
Florida State at Florida - Florida State already has an ACC title game berth locked. The loser of this game will end the regular season at just 7-4. For Florida, that's the same record Ron Zook wound up with last year. After he had already been dismissed, Zook became the first Gator coach to win in Tallahassee since Galen Hall in 1986. Florida State has won two of the last three meetings in Gainesville.
Notre Dame at Stanford - Notre Dame is 13-6 against Stanford and is on a 3-game winning streak in the series. Notre Dame had lost three in-a-row at Stanford prior to a 57-7 victory in 2003. The Cardinal is 4-4 against the Irish at home. Stanford needs a win to become bowl eligible while Notre Dame is looking to keep its hopes alive for an at-large selection to a BCS bowl game.
Other Interesting Non-Conference Games:
Wisconsin at Hawaii - These two teams have met four times, three times in Hawaii. The only win for the Warriors came in their initial meeting in 1986. In the past two seasons, Hawaii has defeated Michigan State and Alabama at home but each of those Warriors teams finished with winning records. This year's squad is just 4-6. This is Barry Alvarez's last game as head coach of the Badgers. Wisconsin lost Alvarez's final home game two weeks ago against Iowa.
Pick On Someone Your Own Size:
There are no games this week between 1-A teams and schools from a lower classification. There have been 54 such games played this season with the 1-A schools winning 52.
From the beginning of the 2003 season through Saturday, 1-A teams are 164-18 in such games.
Streaks: USC has won 33 straight games over-all, 26 in-a-row at home and 22 consecutive PAC-10 games. The Trojans are 44-1 since losing at Washington State on October 5, 2002. The 33-game over-all winning streak is the longest in PAC-10 history, breaking their own record of 25 games set in 1931-1933. USC finishes the season December 3rd at home against rival UCLA.
Texas has won 17 straight games, second-longest streak in the nation behind USC. The Longhorns are at rival Texas A&M.
TCU has won 9 straight. It's regular season is complete.
Boise State owns a nation-leading streak of 31 straight home wins. The Broncos visit Louisiana Tech this week.
New Mexico State and Temple share the nation's longest losing streak at 12 games. The Aggies host Utah State (2-8) on Saturday. The Owls have completed their season at 0-11.
New Coaches: The 2005 season began with 23
San Jose State beat New Mexico State last week for its first over a 1-A team under new head coach Dick Tomey. New Mexico State is still looking for its first win over anybody under Hal Mumme.
Here is how each has fared, by order of success, and who they face this week:.
LSU, 9-1 under Les Miles, hosts Arkansas Friday.
Notre Dame, 8-2 under Charlie Weis, visits Stanford.
Florida, 7-3 under Urban Meyer, hosts Florida State.
Western Michigan, 7-3 under Bill Cubit, visits No. Illinois Wednesday.
South Carolina, 7-4 under Steve Spurrier. Regular season complete.
Miami, O., 6-4 under Shane Montgomery, visits Ohio Monday.
BYU, 6-5 under Bronco Mendenhall. Regular season complete.
Utah, 6-5 under Kyle Whittingham. Regular season complete.
Stanford, 5-5 under Walt Harris, hosts Notre Dame.
Pittsburgh, 5-5 under Dave Wannstedt, visits West Virginia (Thurs.).
East Carolina, 4-6 under Skip Holtz, hosts UAB.
Marshall, 4-6 under Mark Snyder, visits Memphis.
Ohio, 4-6 under Frank Solich, hosts Miami, Ohio (Monday).
Oklahoma St, 4-6 under Mike Gundy, visits Oklahoma.
Indiana, 4-7 under Terry Hoeppner. Regular season complete.
Mississippi, 3-7 under Ed Orgeron, visits Mississippi State.
San Jose St., 2-8 under Dick Tomey, hosts Idaho.
Utah State, 2-8 under Brent Guy, visits New Mexico State.
Illinois, 2-9 under Ron Zook. Regular season complete.
UNLV, 2-9 under Mike Sanford. Regular season complete.
Washington, 2-9 under Ty Willingham. Regular season complete.
Syracuse, 1-9 under Greg Robinson, visits Louisville.
New Mexico St., 0-11 under Hal Mumme, hosts Utah State.